“All Happy Families”


Screened at the 59th Annual Chicago International Film Festival (5/5); Letterboxd (4.5/5), Imdb.com (9/10), TMDB.com (4.5/5)

Movie portrayals of family life often leave much to be desired when it comes to authenticity (especially for offerings on the Hallmark Channel). So it’s genuinely refreshing when a film comes along that depicts these stories with honesty while being eminently entertaining at the same time. Such is the case with writer-director Haroula Rose’s second feature outing about a Chicago family going through a variety of transitions that become ironically (and often hilariously) interconnected, all served up with sparkling wit and an excellent array of one-liners that are definite zingers without being hurtful or nasty. The construction of the narrative and its accompanying screenplay are meticulous and economical, moving along with a steadily sustained pace and never getting bogged down by prolonged sequences that languish or lose their zest, much in the style of director Nicole Holofcener’s works. All of this is brought to life by a finely assembled ensemble cast, especially its four principals (Josh Radnor, Rob Huebel, John Ashton and Becky Ann Baker) but also in its palette of intriguing supporting players. What’s more, the film does a superb job in its depiction of Chicago’s people and neighborhoods, presenting an authentic look and feel of the Windy City, one that residents of the Second City will relish and appreciate. “All Happy Families” is one of those offerings that aren’t widely seen (or made) anymore, but it’s one of the best I’ve screened in a long time. This charmer deserves a general release and a robust fan base. Let’s hope it gets both.